Sew for a Cause at St. Bridget’s Center

Some of the items created and collected by Sew for a Cause and American Legion Post #126 for veterans this Christmas.

The Sew for a Cause group is working with American Legion Post #126, in Vassalboro, on a project. The ladies have made a couple hundred patriotic themed Christmas stockings.

Members of American Legion Post #126 are also collecting personal care items such as shampoo, shaving cream, socks, soap, etc., and snack treats to fill the stockings. The stockings will be donated to veterans at Togus VA, in Augusta. Anyone interested in donating items can contact St. Bridget Center, at 207 616-3148.

Up and down the Kennebec Valley: More high schools (Vassalboro)

Original Oak Grove School

by Mary Grow


In Vassalboro, which until 1792 included Sidney on the west side of the Kennebec River, voters first discussed schools in 1771, the year the town was incorporated. According to Alma Pierce Robbins’ Vassalboro history, voters at a September town meeting approved “Thirty Pounds Lawful money” to support a minister – and refused to appropriate anything to support a schoolmaster.

School districts existed by 1785, in varying numbers and with varying boundaries. After 1806 there was a separate district for members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), at least part of the time.

Oak Grove School, founded by Vassalboro Quakers in 1848 (see The Town Line, July 22), was the third high school established in Vassalboro in the 1800s. The first two were at Getchell’s Corner, a far more important village in the 19th century than it is now.

The earlier, according to Raymond Manson’s research, was Vassalborough Academy.

In his paper on the school, now in the Vassalboro Historical Society’s library, Manson lists the 18 men who, at the beginning of 1835, decided to open a high school. On Feb. 28, 1835, the Maine legislature approved incorporation of The Vassalborough Academy.

Academy trustees commissioned one of their group, Moses Rollins, to build a home for the Academy. Manson wrote that Rollins put the building on the west side of the road through Getchell’s Corner, almost across the street from what was in 1967 Adams Memorial Chapel.

(Rollins, born in 1786, died June 2, 1863, and is buried in Vassalboro’s Union Cemetery. An on-line history says he was a sergeant in one of the Vassalboro companies raised for the War of 1812; this writer found no information on his occupation.)

Nathan Longfellow was the Academy’s first “preceptor,” or teaching principal, serving until the spring of 1837, Manson wrote.

Robbins found an 1837 advertisement in The Kennebec Journal for the Academy’s spring term. Levi Higgins Jr. had succeeded Longfellow; he stayed only one term, Manson said.

The advertisement said quarterly tuition was from $3 to $4.50 (depending on the subjects chosen, as at other high schools). Board was $1.50 to $1.75 a week. Manson wrote that students boarded with neighborhood families in the Academy’s early days, and later arrangements were made to let them room in groups.

In September 1837, Benjamin F. Shaw, who held a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth, became principal. The trustees were pleased. Shaw left in the spring of 1839, but returned sometime in 1840.

Robbins’ first mention of the second high school is for the year 1837. She quotes a long advertisement from The Kennebec Journal for the School for Young Ladies that “Miss A. Howard” planned to open about April 10.

Miss Howard intended to teach “Reading, Writing, Grammar, and Composition”; “the Rudiments of French and Latin Languages”; “Arithmetic, Geography, with the use of Globes, Intellectual Philosophy and such branches of Natural Science as are usually taught in High Schools”; and “useful and ornamental needlework, Painting and Drawing.”

The School for Young Ladies was across the street from the Academy, and, according to Manson, was so successful that after three years of running the Academy for boys only, the trustees decided they should admit girls. For the spring 1838 term, they added to the one-man faculty an “instructress,” whom they described as “eminently qualified.”

This writer has been unable to find any record of Miss Howard or her school later than 1838.

Vasssalborough Academy apparently adapted to co-ed education promptly. In August 1839 the new principal, Ashiel Moore, added “Chinese Painting and Linear Drawing” (for an extra fee), and in the spring of 1840 he introduced “Wax and Needlework,” specifically for the female students.

Manson found lists of Vassalboro Academy principals, course changes and occasionally tuition fees through the 1840s. There was a new principal about every 12 months, including three Bowdoin men in a row (it is unclear whether they were graduates or still students).

The new principal in the fall of 1848 was Josiah Hayden Drummond, Waterville College Class of 1846 (the first of several Waterville College men to head the school in the 1840s and 1850s). Manson wrote that when Drummond was 14 years old, he had been Vassalborough Academy’s assistant math teacher under Principal Shaw.

Science courses were added, physiology in the spring of 1841, chemistry “and other sciences” in 1842. Manson’s first mention of a music course (type unspecified) was in the fall of 1841.

French and German were the foreign languages taught in 1846. In that year’s fall term, Italian replaced French. In 1856, Latin, Greek, French and German were offered.

By the 1850s and 1860s Vassalborough Academy was publishing catalogs, giving Manson additional information.

For example, in 1856 Principal Reuben Foster had four assistants, one a woman. They taught 78 students in the spring term and 88 in the fall term.

The majority of students lived in Vassalboro. Others were from nearby towns – Augusta, China, Windsor and Winslow. The enrollment also included three students from Hanover (west of Rumford) and one each from Buxton (west of Portland), Olney (neither the web nor Chadbourne’s Maine Place Names lists a Maine town named Olney), Palmyra (north of Pittsfield), South Leeds (southwest of Winthrop) and Topsham (north of Brunswick).

The Academy’s purpose was always to prepare male students for college or for teaching. The 1856 catalog repeated these goals and added preparation for business. For girls, the catalog offered “an elevated course of female education.”

By 1861, Manson said, Oak Grove Seminary was providing serious competition for Vassalborough Academy. The 1860s were probably when, according to Kingsbury, the Academy building was used for “religious as well as secular instruction.”

William Penn Whitehouse, Colby 1863, became Academy principal in the fall of 1863 – perhaps the last principal, Manson wrote. (Whitehouse later became a Justice of the Maine Supreme Court [see The Town Line, Dec. 10, 2020].)

The Methodist Society bought the Academy building in 1868. Manson added an item from the April 29, 1870, Waterville Mail saying the work to convert the building to a Methodist church should be finished by July 1870.

The Getchell’s Corner Methodists merged with the North Vassalboro church in 1890, Manson continued. After the merger, he wrote, the building “became a general store and was destroyed by fire about 1917. All that remains of the old academy are the foundation walls.”

There might have been a successor to Vassalborough Academy. Robbins mentioned in 1869, in quotation marks, ” ‘the upper school’ at North Vassalboro,” where Lewis Mowers was the teacher. She provided no further information.

After the Maine legislature required town high schools in 1873, Robbins wrote, Vassalboro opened two, in East Vassalboro and at Riverside.

According to Vassalboro Historical Society President Janice Clowes and information in the Historical Society library, the East Vassalboro High School was on the west side of Main Street, approximately opposite the present Grange Hall. Kingsbury said voters appropriated $500 for the building in 1873, but by 1892 “the continued success of Oak Grove Seminary has superseded the necessity for the high school.”

Undated postcards the Society owns show a two-story wooden building with an attic. Two doors with a window between them face east, toward the street; the second floor has a single front window above the ground-floor one, and above that is a semi-circular attic window.

Accompanying information calls the school a primary or grammar school. It was discontinued in the latter half of the 1920s, and students moved to the “new” East Vassalboro School. That building now houses the Historical Society museum.

Neighbor Harold Taylor bought the old schoolhouse in the 1930s, and his daughter, Betty Taylor, had the building torn down in 1981, according to Historical Society records.

The 1873 Riverside School, Clowes says, is the building on the north side of Webber Pond Road, a short distance east of Riverside Drive (Route 201). She commented that it has been “very changed.”

In 1873, too, North Vassalboro residents spent more than $6,000 for a new school building there. Kingsbury called it the “best school building in the town,” with “three departments, and a large public hall on the second floor.”

Neither Kingsbury nor Robbins said what grades it housed. After serving as a school and then as the town office building, it is now the office of Mid-Maine Internal Medicine.

Robbins cited an 1889 state law that required each public school teacher to “devote ten minutes of each day to the principle of kindness to birds and animals.”

After the 1903 state law telling the town to pay $30 tuition to “any high school of standard grade,” Robbins wrote that from Vassalboro, 33 students went to Oak Grove Seminary, 10 chose Coburn Classical Institute, in Waterville, four attended Erskine Academy, in China, and one each went to high schools in Hallowell and Yarmouth.

Vassalboro historians Alma Pierce Robbins and Raymond Russell Manson

Alma Pierce Robbins was born Oct. 4, 1898, in Vassalboro, youngest of five children of Ira James Robbins (1855-1929) and Lucy Alma (Smiley) Robbins (1862-1930). She died Nov. 29, 1997, aged 99 years and almost two months, according to an on-line genealogy.

The three girls in the family were travelers. Older sister Elsie Marion (1886-1960) died in California; second sister Edna Mildred (1888-1987, another long-lived family member) lived in Massachusetts and Illinois; and Alma Pierce worked in Massachusetts and died in Florida.

Their brother Wendell Ira (1891-1983) spent his life in Augusta. Brother Maurice Smiley (1893-1970) got as far away as Mechanic Falls, but died in Waterville and is buried in China’s Chadwick Hill Cemetery.

Robbins’ obituary, published in Nantucket County, Massachusetts, says that after elementary schooling in Vassalboro, she graduated from Brewster Academy, in Wolfboro, New Hampshire, in 1917 and attended colleges in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

For more than 30 years she was a social worker in Boston. She lived on Nantucket and edited the Nantucket Historical Association newsletter.

The genealogy, but not the obituary, says that from January to December 1928 Robbins was married to Herman Schwartz. In 1930, the genealogy says, she was described as an osteopath in Brunswick, where she lived for about two years.

On-line military records show Robbins enlisting in the Women’s Army Corps on Aug. 14, 1944, from Boston. Army records describe her as unmarried and without dependents. She had had four years of college; her occupation was in the category “Social and welfare workers.” She was discharged Sept. 2, 1945.

The obituary says after retirement, “she lived in Vassalboro, Clearwater [Florida], and Arcata [California],” moving to Florida permanently in 1985. Her “numerous published writings” include the 1971 Vassalboro history.

With permission of her great-nephew Stephen Robbins, between 1990 and 2003 The Town Line published several of Robbins’ articles describing early 20th-century life on the family farm on Webber Pond Road.

Raymond Russell Manson, another Vassalboro historian, wrote a short autobiographical piece for the Maine State Library’s Special Collections compilation of correspondence from Maine writers. The library has made his 1967 information available on line.

Manson wrote that he was born Oct. 6, 1899 (almost exactly a year later than Robbins), in North Vassalboro, George Thomas and Mary Jewett Manson’s fifth child.

He went to Vassalboro elementary schools and graduated from Oak Grove Seminary, Class of 1918. He entered Colby College in the Class of 1922, apparently after army service in World War I. On June 1, 1919, while still in college, he became a post office employee in Waterville, rising to the rank of Assistant Postmaster before he retired on Dec. 31, 1960.

He married Vivian Crafts (born Nov. 19, 1904), from Watertown, Massachusetts, on Sept. 3, 1930. They lived on Burleigh Street in Waterville; both were Christian Scientists.

Manson was a member of the Vassalboro Masons and the Vassalboro Historical Society. He wrote numerous historical pieces about his native town, including the history of Oak Grove that he and Elsia Holway Burleigh wrote in 1965 (previously cited in this series; see The Town Line, July 22, issue).

Manson died Jan. 11, 1980. In 1989 his widow married Clarence Merryfield; the couple lived in Belfast until 1993, when they returned to Waterville. She died there Dec. 5, 2006.

Main sources

Kingsbury, Henry D., ed., Illustrated History of Kennebec County Maine 1625-1892 (1892).
Manson, Raymond M., Vassalboro Academy (June 15, 1967; manuscript, Vassalboro Historical Society).
Robbins, Alma Pierce, History of Vassalborough Maine 1771 1971 n.d. (1971).

Websites, miscellaneous.

Vassalboro Fundraiser for Fortins

Fortin’s Farm where 8 cows were struck by lightning. (photo from Facebook event)

VASSALBORO – The Spaghetti Supper Fundraiser for the Fortin’s will be held at St Bridget Center, Saturday, October 16, from 4 – 7 p.m.

Vassalboro selectmen cancel October 14 meeting

by Mary Grow

Vasssalboro selectmen have canceled their meeting that was scheduled for Thursday evening, Oct. 14. Their next meeting is an Oct. 21 goal-setting workshop, to which they will add the discussion of a Solar Array Ordinance that was on the Oct. 14 agenda.

The Oct. 21 meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the town office meeting room. Interested residents are welcome to attend, but selectmen do not plan to accept public comments at this informal stage of discussion.

Vassalboro planning board: two applicants are approved

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro Planning Board members found that two applicants for Webber Pond shoreland permits met all town standards and unanimously approved their permits.

Receiving approval were Alecia Saucier, to replace a mobile home on Saucier Lane with a larger mobile home on a cement slab; and Mike Fisher, to enlarge a deck and add a handicapped access ramp at 1 Baker Lane.

Saucier’s approval was with the condition that the usual erosion control measures be in place when the slab is put in. Saucier said the company that sold the mobile home told her it had to be on a slab and to have hurricane straps.

Each home was a non-conforming structure in that it was within 75 feet of the high-water line. Expansion therefore required planning board review and approval. No building will be extended closer to the water on either property.

Both applicants also need Department of Environmental Protection permits. Fisher had just received his; Saucier was waiting for hers.

Codes Officer Paul Mitnik and his successor-in-training, Ryan Page, discussed with each applicant the additional permits needed.

Mitnik told planning board members that as of Oct. 5, he had no applications for a November meeting agenda. If the board does meet in November, it will reschedule from Nov. 2, its usual first-Tuesday meeting night, to Nov. 9, to avoid conflicting with elections.

Mitnik said he and Page, having finished reviewing applications for auto graveyard/junkyard and auto hobbyists’ permits, were looking at permits for marijuana businesses in Vassalboro.

Local residents named to Simmons University dean’s list

The following local residents were named to the 2021 spring semester dean’s list at Simmons University, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Allyson Cunningham, of Augusta, Kaili Shorey, of Vassalboro, Abigail Bloom, of Waterville, and Maddie Beckwith, of Winslow.

To qualify for dean’s list status, undergraduate students must obtain a grade point average of 3.5 or higher, based on 12 or more credit hours of work in classes using the letter grade system.

China group cancels fall WindowDressers workshop

by Eric W. Austin

The China for a Lifetime Committee has announced they will not be moving forward with a WindowDressers workshop this fall. Current uncertainty regarding conditions around the COVID-19 pandemic as well as low participation were the reasons for the cancellation.

WindowDressers is a volunteer-led, community initiative that aims to build low-cost window inserts to help reduce residential heating costs. The program is sponsored by the nonprofit WindowDressers organization based out of Rockland.

In an email sent to committee members, chairman Christopher Hahn wrote, “My recommendation is that we not go forward with a Community Build or measuring this year. Taking into account the responses I received from most of you regarding the survey from WindowDressers and the continued COVID-19 trending in Maine and the uncertainty regarding the twists and turns of the pandemic, I feel a greater obligation to help people stay safe than to reduce the heating costs for a handful of people in the area. I am not minimizing that issue but with the contagiousness of the Delta variant and the established fact that vaccinated individuals can asymptomatically transmit the more deadly variant to unvaccinated individuals, I would be horrified to learn that one of our recipients contracted the virus from our event.”

Participants who had planned to order inserts from the China workshop this year may be able to process their orders through other community builds. WindowDressers will work with them to accommodate any orders already received. Anyone still hoping to order inserts should sign up on the WindowDressers website at

According to a community survey conducted by the China for a Lifetime Committee in 2017, 12 percent of local residents struggle to sufficiently heat their homes. The planned WindowDressers workshop was one way the committee hoped to address this need. The committee was working in concert with a number of other local groups as well as several residents of Vassalboro who had participated in a previous workshop.

The committee plans to continue its work supporting local residents in line with its mission to “develop initiatives that improve the quality of life for residents of China, South China, Weeks Mills, and Branch Mills.” To this end, they created a China Volunteer Program (CVP) several years ago to assist community members in need. They can be reached through their email address at or through the Friends of China Facebook group. More information about the committee can also be found at their website,

Vassalboro selectmen hold public hearing on mass gathering

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen spent the first half of their short Sept. 30 meeting hosting two public hearings. The first was to seek comment on the new Mass Gathering Ordinance that will be on the Nov. 2 local ballot. The second was the annual hearing on permits for junkyard/auto graveyard permits and auto hobbyist permits.

The 12-page Town of Vassalboro Mass Gathering Ordinance is on the town website,, in the center column, under the heading “Notice of Public Hearing.” Selectmen wrote the ordinance in preparation for a planned country music festival in town next July.

The ordinance defines a mass gathering as “an outdoor gathering intended to attract, or, in fact, attracting five hundred (500) or more persons assembled together, for any purpose.” It goes on to exempt gatherings in established or permanent places of assembly, which selectmen have said include the Olde Mill, St. Bridget’s Center and Natanis Golf Course, among others.

The purpose of the ordinance is to promote public health, safety and welfare. The theory behind the exemptions is that permanent places are adequate to hold gatherings safely and without disturbance or disruption.

Resident William “Billy” Pullen asked selectmen how they came up with the 500-person figure. He pointed out that his Vassalboro Days car show at the town office had probably attracted that many people. And, he asked, who keeps count?

Selectman Barbara Redmond said after reviewing other towns’ ordinances, 500 seemed a reasonable, middling number. The ordinance envisions promoters of gatherings like the country music festival keeping count through ticket sales.

Board Chairman Robert Browne assured Pullen the ordinance would not affect his annual car show.

During the second public hearing, Codes Officer Paul Mitnik said he and his replacement-in-training, Ryan Page, had inspected the seven graveyards/junkyards and three hobbyists’ properties. Mitnik recommended, and selectmen accepted, six approvals; two approvals with conditions; and two denials.

Denied were:

  • Dale Clement, at 471 Taber Hill Road, because Mitnik said the business appeared to be closed. He awaits a reply to a 30-day notice he sent.
  • Hobbyist Keith Lemieux at 79 Priest Hill Road, because Mitnik saw no evidence his old cars were being restored or otherwise worked on, as the law requires. Mitnik said he sent Lemieux a notice, too.

Conditional approvals were for:

  • Olin Charette, 1499 Riverside Drive, who needs to maintain his screening and keep a second gate free; and
  • Hobbyist James Jurdak, 7 Baker Road, who needs screening.

Annual permits were approved for James Cogley (Ron’s Parts), 510 Main Street; Bill Pullen (Freddie’s Service Center), 163 South Stanley Hill Road; Stanley Garnett (Garnett Motors), 1616 N. Belfast Avenue; Voit Ritch (Autowerkes), Route 3; Roger Pomerleau (RAP), 1702 Riverside Drive; and hobbyist Robert Dore, 919 Church Hill Road.

The approved permits are all renewals.

Selectmen spent the rest of the meeting with routine business, including reviewing reports from town departments and approving bills for payment.

Town Manager Mary Sabins said that since the recently-hired bookkeeper had resigned, the remaining town office staff members have been extremely busy. Retired bookkeeper Jean Poulin had been coming back to help as her time permitted, Sabins said.

The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14.

Vassalboro mass gathering ordinance, junkyard permits on selectmen’s agenda

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro selectmen will start their Thursday, Sept. 30, meeting in the town office meeting room at the usual 6:30 p.m., with two public hearings as the first agenda items.

The first hearing is on the proposed Mass Gathering Ordinance selectmen and Town Manager Mary Sabins drafted over the summer. Board members invite comments on the ordinance, which will be presented to voters for approval or rejection at the polls on Nov. 2.

The second hearing is on 2021 applications for auto graveyard/junkyard and auto hobbyist licenses. There are 10 applications.

A list of license applicants and a link to the complete text of the Mass Gathering Ordinance are on the Vassalboro website,, in the center section under the heading “What’s New in Vassalboro.”

Bullying problems addressed by Vassalboro school board

Vassalboro Community School (contributed photo)

by Mary Grow

Vassalboro School Board members heard a parent’s complaint about bullying at Vassalboro Community School (VCS) at the beginning of their Sept. 21 meeting. They reacted with sympathy and concern and said they, administrators and their policy committee will continue to address the problem.

Superintendent Alan Pfeiffer, who has had positive experience with anti-bullying programs earlier in his career in education in Maine, is looking at a broad approach. He reported that after “significant conversations” with Maine Department of Education (MDOE) officials, he has just signed up VCS for an MDOE pilot program called SEL (social emotional learning, which includes bullying, school safety and related issues).

Pfeiffer’s statement continued: “The MDOE Office of School and Student Supports and the Maine School Safety center are supporting this effort. More conversations will occur in the coming days and weeks to build a thoughtful sequential framework of steps for the next several years.

“This is an effort to support all students, families and staff through the effects, residual effects and ongoing effects of the pandemic over the past 18 months,” he concluded.

Most of the rest of the Sept. 21 meeting involved reports on the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

Pfeiffer was upbeat. There have been scattered coronavirus cases, which have been handled promptly and appropriately, he said. But, he said, the good news is, “We’ve been in school all day every day for 14 days,” and he hopes to continue.

VCS offers a remote option for students unable or unwilling to attend in person. Curriculum Director Carol Kiesman said 11 students were learning remotely as of Sept. 21.

Kiesman praised new remote teacher Jennifer Bonnet as “a superstar.” Bonnet is certified to teach both regular and special education students, she said.

Nurse MaryAnn Fortin had conducted the first pool test for coronavirus the day before the meeting and was pleased with the cooperation from students and staff.

Dr. Steve Diaz, Chief Medical Officer at MaineGeneral Hospital, in Augusta, spoke from the audience about the Delta variant, which he said is affecting children more than previous versions of the virus did.

It is important for students to attend school in person, educationally, socially and emotionally, he said. Since children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, school authorities must use multiple other protective measures – he specified keeping sick children at home, observing social distancing and masking.

“You’re doing the right thing,” he assured VCS officials and the audience.

Principal Megan Allen said teachers are finding out what students missed during last year’s disruptions as they begin the current year. Assistant Principal Greg Hughes said intermural sports have started normally.

In the usual beginning of the year routine, school board members approved hiring Bonnet and more than a dozen other new staff members. Pfeiffer reported a continuing shortage of teacher aides, substitute teachers and bus drivers.

Previously-retired driver Ellie Lessard is still back at work, he said, and Maintenance and Grounds Director Shelley Phillips is finding time to fill in as a bus driver.

The next regular Vassalboro School Board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19.